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Percentage Of Catholic Latinos In U.S. Down 12 Percent, Pew Study Finds

McClatchy Tribune News Service National News

Percentage Of Catholic Latinos In U.S. Down 12 Percent, Pew Study Finds


By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Buffeted by a rise in converts to other forms of Christianity as well as a falling away from religion entirely, the share of Latino Catholics in the United States continues to decline, a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found.

The study reconfirmed that the vast majority of Latinos in the U.S. remain Catholic, but it also showed how that stronghold has weakened. Fifty-five percent of the nation’s Latino adults self-identify as Catholic, a drop of 12 percentage points over a three-year period that ended in the summer of 2013, according to Pew.

The decline has been sparked in part by shifts underway in Latin America — where Protestant, evangelical forms of Christianity have made significant inroads over the last several decades. In the U.S., increasing numbers of immigrants either converted to an evangelical church before coming here or made the switch once they arrived.

Also contributing to the shrinking share of Latino Catholics is a broader societal trend: People in the U.S. increasingly are referring to themselves as “unaffiliated,” a broad category that includes those who identify as atheists or agnostics or who simply do not believe in a particular form of religion. The number of unaffiliated Latinos has increased from 10 percent to 18 percent since a similar study in 2010, according to Pew.

Father Allan Figueroa Deck, a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, said the study highlights the fact that the Catholic Church faces stiff competition in an expanding marketplace of faith.

“Latino Catholics now live in a world of religious pluralism that is relatively new,” he said. “The Latino church in Latin America was one of monopoly for several centuries. Increased options reflect the reality of today.”

Deck added that the study magnifies an urgent need for the Catholic Church to advance reforms pushed by Pope Francis, who is prodding it to become less hierarchical and more concerned with meeting people’s daily needs.

Former Catholic Latinos often say they left the church because it felt stifling and failed to speak to modern concerns.

Based on a survey of 5,103 Latino adults living in the United States, the study showed that the most dramatic identity shifts are occurring in younger generations.

Among Latinos between 18 and 29 years old, the ranks of the unaffiliated have swelled from 14 percent to 31 percent since 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage in that age group who identified as Catholic declined from 60 percent to 45 percent. By contrast, among Latinos who are 50 and older, the survey didn’t find a statistically significant change in Catholic affiliation.

Although American Latinos are leaving the Catholic Church in large numbers, they are still a significant share of all Catholics in the U.S., making up one-third of the church.

Both trends are occurring simultaneously because of the steady increase within the U.S. of the Latino population. Pew researchers speculate that a day could come when a majority of U.S. Catholics are Latino, even though most Latinos will not be Catholic.

“The shifts we see in the study show huge implications for American religious life,” said Edwin Hernandez, a research fellow at the University of Notre Dame who focuses on Latinos and religion.

Of particular interest to Hernandez were the survey findings that showed an increasing prominence of conservative Latino evangelicals, a group he said has been “operating under the radar” but could end up having a significant impact on American politics and culture.

AFP Photo/Joe Klamar



  1. Michael Nunez - A53 May 7, 2014

    Bolshevik ideologues within Hussein Obama’s criminal marxist regime have slandered pro-life advocates as violent and racist.

    1. JPHALL May 8, 2014

      Why do you people, on the right, insist on lies instead of speaking the truth. You obviously have no idea what the terms Bolshevik or Marxist mean. You are merely repeating what someone told you. Use Google and learn what those terms actually mean then apply those labels.

    2. Paul Bass May 8, 2014

      Your obviously “racist” statement has nothing to do with catholic latinos! Just go peddle your propaganda elsewhere, we don’t believe you.

    3. dmhlt_66 May 8, 2014

      What have you found to be the best way to clean the Doritos stains you leave on the keyboard in your mom’s basement?
      Or does she still do ALL the cleaning up after you?


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